Tashayna Peters left Africa with what she called a “life-changing” experience after doing humanitarian work in Zambia through a prestigious B.C. internship program.
D’Arcy’s Peters, as well as Mount Currie’s Attila Nelson, recently returned from a four-month stint in Africa after being selected as two of 10 participants in this year’s International Aboriginal Internship Program administered by the Victoria International Development Education Association (VIDEA).
“It was awesome, I loved it,” said Peters. “Being over there was amazing.”
Peters and Nelson first spent several weeks training in Victoria before leaving for Africa in mid-February. Peters was based out of Lusaka, the Zambian capital, and spent much of her time working for a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Justice for Widows and Orphans, which provided aid to families and children who had lost spouses or parents.
“It was pretty awesome hearing their stories and something I will never forget, working for the NGO,” said Peters, who celebrated her 21st birthday during the internship. “Then I worked at the YWCA for the last month that I was there at the Child and Crisis Centre, so I was working with young girls who had been abused.”
Nelson was stationed in Uganda and worked as the communications and media officer for WomenFirst, an organization providing impoverished women with entrepreneurial opportunities to help support themselves and their families.
Although Nelson couldn’t be reached for comment by press time, he documented the experience extensively on his blog (www.attilasadventure.wordpress.com) and described how he ran computer classes for as many as 50 people and managed online content for WomenFirst’s website.
In a post from May 29, a couple of weeks before the VIDEA interns left Africa, Nelson gave some of his final impressions of the trip and the lasting memories he took from Uganda.
“I really think I found the true Ugandan spirit in the people; I found it in the culture. The language. The personalities of each individual. It wasn’t in a sunrise. It wasn’t in a herd of gazelle. It was right here all along in the heart of Africa and now I can return home and say, ‘I was there,’” wrote Nelson, 21.
Continuing on, Nelson wrote that he’s unsure where the experience will lead him to next.
“I guess the point is this trip was just a way to look at life in another perspective. And new perspectives, not unlike planting a seed, take time to bear fruit,” he said.
Peters said the journey to Africa became one of personal discovery for herself, as she returned home with newfound confidence
“When I first started the internship, I was scared to talk in front of anyone. But it’s been life-changing; I’ve grown so much,” said Peters. “I come from a really small town and I didn’t think that anything like this could be possible (for me). I’m just so grateful and it was an amazing experience.
“I didn’t only go there to help; I went there to learn and I learned a lot and made a lot of friends that I’ll have for a lifetime.”
And Peters and Nelson’s humanitarian work is continuing now that they’ve returned home. Starting on Monday (July 15), both will be participating in VIDEA’s Global Solidarity Challenge. They’ll be living on just $1.25 per day for a full week in a show of support to the 1.3 billion people worldwide who must survive on that amount of money or less. Peters said she also intends to send books back overseas to one of the schools she visitied while in Zambia.
Peters and Nelson are seeking donations as they take on the challenge. Anyone interested in supporting the local residents can visit www.solidarity.videa.ca to donate.